Friday, December 9, 2016

Show proof of SOP compliance, See says

See Chee How 

KUCHING: Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How has challenged the state Forest Department to open its books on the approval and issuance of Occupation Tickets (OT) for scrutiny on whether there was compliance with the department’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

See, who is state PKR vice- chairman, said this was to show that the state Forest Department had nothing to hide in safeguarding and conserving the state’s valuable but depleting timber resources and the environment.

“I am not only disappointed, but appalled by the (state Forest) Department’s shifty and evasive reply,” he said yesterday.

The state Forest Department, in its statement on Wednesday, described See’s allegation that the number of OT licences it issued had increased by three fold as “totally wrong and misleading”. Additionally, the state Forest Department claimed that See had apparently or deliberately misinterpreted the figure given in his media statement.

The department explained that the total number of 109, 100 and 42 OT licences issued in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively were in fact accumulative total number of licences that remained valid in those particular years.

The department also reiterated that to date, only 42 OT licences were valid for Native Customary Rights (NCR) land compared to 100 licences last year, adding: “Therefore, this clearly shows a reduction in numbers. For information, only 12 new OT licences were issued this year.”

See said it was the joint statement given by the permanent secretary of Resource Planning and Environment Ministry Datu Sudarsono Osman and the director of Forests, Sapuan Ahmad on Monday that disclosed that 251 OTs were issued after Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem assumed the office of the Chief Minister and the Minister of Resource Planning and Environment.

“And the emphasis of my statement was to call for an inquiry and verification into their SOP compliance, to ensure that his (Adenan’s) ministerial directives were not flouted.”

See said he gave due acknowledgement to the fact that 67 of the OTs issued in 2014 had expired and or were terminated in 2015 as revealed by the state Forest Department, similarly the 102 OTs being issued in 2015 and 42 this year.

“The question remains: Whether there is SOP compliance in the issuance of the OTs, or were there flouting of the Chief Minister’s good directives to combat illegal logging and to safeguard and conserve our forest resources and environment.

“It is not an issue that there are only 42 OTs current and operational.”

In view of the state Forest Department’s strong and serious accusation made against him, See was now giving the department 24 hours to revisit the issuance of the OT licence for more than 4,000 hectares of land within the Spali Land District in Kanowit, and make a public statement to affirm that the issuance of that particular OT was in accordance with the laws, rules, regulations and the SOP, and that it was not issued in defiance or evading the Chief Minister’s clear directives.

“As it concerns the Chief Minister’s clear directives over land and forest resources which are primarily state matters, I am hopeful that the state is capable of handling any wrongdoing, misfeasance and/or breach of fiduciary duties of the officials ourselves. But I will not hesitate to advise the parties to forward their complaints and evidence to the relevant authorities for investigation and actions.”

In responding to the statement made by Assistant Minister of Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh on Wednesday that there was no necessity for an independent inquiry to conduct an investigation into the SOP compliance by the state Forest Department, See said that the experienced former state director of forests should be objective with the matter and be the first to offer assistance to look into the SOP compliance when the allegation of flouting of ministerial directives was first brought out.

“With his wealth of experience and knowledge as the former state director of forests, not least being the architect in preparing the five-volume SOP, the honourable assistant minister will be able to assist in the investigation, to pin-point the weaknesses in the SOP and improve on it.”

Being fellow members of the State Legislative Assembly and sharing the same concerns for the safeguard and conservation of the environment and natural resources, See said he would be most happy to work with Len Talif to investigate this matter and make suggestions to improve on the SOP and legislatures to “better protect and conserve our forest, timber resources and environment”.

“Surely, the Chief Minister and the state government are serious with the administrative integrity and good governance that they propagated. In view of the fact that our state’s policies on environment, forest and timber resource management are constantly under intense international scrutiny and criticism, I strongly urge that this matter be dealt with immediately.”

~ Borneo Post

NGOs fear 'witch hunt', not the law, Nur Jazlan told

Published     Updated

The ongoing investigations on NGOs over foreign funding is a cause for concern because these are being done in bad faith, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) says.

LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said today there have been cases where individuals were detained without trial and investigated under terrorism laws, among other forms of intimidation.

Moreover, said Paulsen, there appears to be a different set of rules on foreign funding when it comes to the government and BN.

"It is therefore reasonable for NGOs not to trust the investigating authorities as clearly they are out on a fishing expedition, to look for improbable evidence to support their reckless claims of 'foreign funded agenda to topple the government' or 'activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy'," Paulsen said in a statement.

Paulsen said this in response to Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed, who said the NGOs under investigation had nothing to fear if they had nothing to hide.

Several NGOs, including electoral reforms pressure group Bersih, human rights watchdogs Suaram and LFL, were called in by the police for fresh rounds of questioning this week over funding related matters.

No laws to ban foreign funding

They were called in days after Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the Umno general assembly that the government would be taking action on dissidents funded by outsiders .

Paulsen said that there currently was no law to criminalise foreign funding for governments, NGOs or business entities.
"To portray otherwise is of course ludicrous as the government has been receiving foreign funds or aid for decades from multiple international sources," the lawyer added.
Instead of going after NGOs, Paulsen said, Nur Jazlan should order the authorities to turn their attention to providing a transparent account on the RM2.6 billion donation received by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in 2013.

"(Nur Jazlan) should not take the easy way out by claiming the authorities have investigated the matter or that the attorney-general has cleared the PM as such explanation lacks credibility," he said.
Paulsen also called on Nur Jazlan to explain the alleged financial assistance sought from China with regard to 1MDB, as reported by the UK's Financial Times yesterday.

Who's telling the truth about M'sia's Pisa 2015 scores?

Published     Updated

Yesterday, DAP's Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming claimed Malaysia was not featured in the rankings for Mathematics, Reading and Science in the Programme for International Student Assessment 2015 (Pisa 2015) report.

Then, the Education Ministry issued a statement, insisting that Malaysia did indeed appear in the report.

So, who's telling the truth and who's not?

In simple words, both are correct: Malaysia did appear in the Pisa 2015 report, but it was not ranked with the other countries due to bungled data submitted.

Here's a breakdown of what happened.

How did it start?

It began with Education Ministry deputy director-general Amin Senin proudly announcing that Malaysia had improved its performance in Pisa 2015 on Wednesday.

He pointed out Malaysia's score for Mathematics had increased from 404 to 421 while the score for Reading improved from 398 to 414 and Science from 420 to 422 as compared to Pisa 2012.

What did DAP MP Ong Kian Ming say?

Ong poured cold water on the boast, claiming that Malaysia was not ranked as Malaysia's data only had a 51 percent response rate from schools, therefore it did not meet the minimum 85 percent requirement by Pisa.

He also speculated that the 51 percent response rate may be skewed to high performing schools, therefore giving an impression that Malaysia's performance had improved even though the data is not representative of the whole country.

How did the Education Ministry respond?

The Education Ministry pointed out that the Pisa 2015 results, published by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), appeared in the Pisa 2015 Initial Report Volume 1 (Excellence and Equity in Education) and Volume 2 (Policies and Practices in Excellent Schools).
"Malaysia's results were reported in both the Pisa 2015 reports.

"Malaysia's results can be found in the figures of the report as well as in the tables in the annexes," it said in a statement.

A check by Malaysiakini found that Malaysia was absent from page 44 of the Pisa 2015 Results Volume 1 (Excellence and Equity in Education), which displayed the mean score for Science, Reading and Mathematics.

Malaysia did receive a mean score but when it appeared in figures from page 320 to page 442, it was isolated in a separate category because the data could not be used for comparison.

The report explained in Annex A4 on page 304, which concerned quality assurance of the data.
It stated: "In Malaysia, the Pisa assessment was conducted in accordance with the operational standards and guidelines of the OECD.

"However, the weighted response rate among the initially sampled Malaysian schools (51 percent) falls well short of the standard Pisa response rate of 85 percent.

"Therefore, the results may not be comparable to those of other countries or to results for Malaysia from previous years."

You can find the report here.

So, the Education Ministry was also right that Malaysia did appear in the report.
But Malaysia's score, as clearly stated in the report, may not be comparable to previous results so the Education Ministry's boast of improving performance is not accurate.
The Education Ministry in its statement did acknowledge that its data to Pisa only achieved the required school response rate.

But it stated that the data for students was accepted as 8,661 of students out of a sample of 9,660 students responded and it was therefore considered representative.

It added that OECD had identified weaknesses in the computer-based reporting system and improvements would be introduced for the Pisa 2018 report.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

2016 worst year for human rights since Ops Lallang, says activist

Geraldine Tong     Published     Updated

This year was the worst year for human rights in Malaysia since Operation Lallang in 1987, said Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong.

“The detention without trial of (Bersih chairperson) Maria Chin Abdullah and other human rights defenders brings me memories of Ops Lallang,” Kua said at the launch of Suaram’s 2016 human rights report in Malaysia held in Kuala Lumpur today.

Operation Lallang was a major crackdown in 1987 on those seen to be government dissidents, with over 100 politicians and activists arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The ISA has since been repealed under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Kua was one of those arrested under ISA during Ops Lallang.

He further said that such abuses of human rights only happen when the government is beleaguered.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration was beleaguered in 1987, he said, because he was being challenged by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and his Team B.

Now, the government is also beleaguered since the US Department of Justice announced their civil forfeiture lawsuit against several people involved in the 1MDB scandal, such as the Malaysian Official 1 (MO1)

“(MO1) is beleaguered in all the world.

“When he is in a state of siege, he will resort to these measures to stay in power,” Kua said.

Meanwhile, Suaram said their documentation revealed there was a total of 475 people arrested under laws which allow for detention without trial this year.

The three laws whose statistics they documented are Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota).

Suaram also noted that crackdown on freedom of expression in Malaysia was still prevalent.

While the application of the Sedition Act seems to have eased up, they said the Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA) has been increasingly used against the general public.

Freedom of movement was also an issue this year, they said, especially in the run-up to the Sarawak state elections in April, where a number of opposition politicians and activists were banned from traveling to the state.

Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and political cartoonist Zunar were also banned from travelling internationally this year, they noted.

Malaysia’s human rights record weak, says report

 | December 8, 2016

Freedom of Thought Report by human rights group cites 'government figures or state agencies which openly marginalise, harass, or incite hatred'.
PETALING JAYA: Malaysia continues to be a “violator” of human rights, including the freedom of thought and expression, coming under serious assault, according to this year’s Freedom of Thought Report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

“Malaysia rates very badly with ethnic Malays subjected to strict state controls over an enforced, homogenous religious identity, including mandatory shariah laws, and in two states hudud enactments mandating death for ‘apostasy’,” the report stated giving the country a “5” rating for the category of “Freedom of Expression, Advocacy of Humanist Values” – with 5 being the lowest rating.

According to the report published earlier this week, the two states with the “death” penalty for the crime of apostasy are Kelantan and Terengganu, with both governments having passed hudud enactments in 1993 and 2002, respectively.

However, in March last year, Kelantan had passed an amendment to the 1993 enactment, prescribing a jail sentence, should an apostate repent, with the death penalty still possible if such an apostate refuses to repent.

IHEU acknowledges however, that no one has been convicted of apostasy under this shariah law and that according to a 1993 statement by the attorney-general, such a ruling could not be enforced in either state without a constitutional amendment.

That is part of the reason behind the constitutional amendment to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) tabled by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang in the Dewan Rakyat under a Private Member’s Bill earlier this year.

The IHEU also gave Malaysia a “5” rating for the category of “Family, Community and Society”, with the emphasis being on “government figures or state agencies which openly marginalise, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious”.

IHEU cited a speech by Prime Minister Najib Razak, where he labelled “humanism, secularism and liberalism” as dangerous threats to Islam and the state.

“They call it human rightism, where the core beliefs are based on humanism and secularism as well as liberalism.

“It’s deviationist in that it glorifies the desires of man alone and rejects any value system that encompasses religious norms and etiquettes. They do this on the premise of championing human rights,” he had reportedly said in his speech at the opening of the 57th national Quran Recital Assembly in May 2014.

Meanwhile, Malaysia was rated “4” for “severe discrimination” in the other two categories of “Constitution and Government” and “Education and Children’s Rights”.

In the former category, IHEU cited the government’s ban on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims in Malay-language Bibles and other Christian publications, and its selective application to human rights.

“Malaysia has a narrow conception of human rights, having signed only two of the eight legally enforceable human rights treaties derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

“Even then the state asserts constitutional exemptions to these treaties and to the UDHR itself, asserting that only ‘those fundamental liberties provided for’ in the Constitution will be upheld, thus rendering its signature to the UDHR essentially an empty gesture,” IHEU said.

Malaysia registered an overall score of 4.5 in the IHEU’s Freedom of Thought Report for this year. Among its neighbours, only Indonesia (4.5) and Brunei (4.75) fared the same or worse.

Cambodia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste were all given an overall rating of 3.

The IHEU Freedom of Thought Report has been compiled since 2012, and is based on the submissions of members of IHEU, a worldwide umbrella of humanist, atheist, secular and similar organisations.

~ Free Malaysia Today

Report: China to be 1MDB’s new white knight in dispute with IPIC

Published     Updated

China will reportedly assist 1MDB in making a repayment to International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) amid a US$6.5 billion dispute between the Malaysian and Abu Dhabi state-owned funds.

According to the Financial Times, three people with knowledge of the matter said China was approached as a source of funds for 1MDB.

It added that one source said Malaysia would swap assets for financing.

The claim cannot be independently verified by Malaysiakini.

According to the report, 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy in response to the claim, said the Malaysian fund “does not have anything further to add to previous statements in relation to the ongoing dispute with IPIC”.

In May last year, IPIC was in a similar position as China, having emerged as a “white knight” for 1MDB, which was struggling to repay a US$975 million loan.

This was after a consortium of banks led by Deutsche Bank demanded early repayment from 1MDB due to “incomplete securitisation documents”.

As part of a bailout deal, IPIC in June last year extended a US$1 billion loan to 1MDB to settle the outstanding loan with Deutsche Bank and its consortium partners.

The deal was to hammer out a subsequent debt-for-asset swap to settle around US$3.5 billion of 1MDB’s debt.

However, by August that year, reports emerged that IPIC was planning to pull out from the deal.

This coincided with the sacking of IPIC's subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS chief executive officer Mohamed Badawy Al Husseiny the same month, following the resignation of IPIC chairperson Khadem al-Qubaisi in April last year.

Both men were later implicated by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) as having facilitated in allegedly siphoning at least US$3.5 billion of funds from 1MDB, along with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak step-son Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz and Penang-born billionaire Jho Low.

It was later revealed deals IPIC entered with 1MDB prior to the bailout deal were also amiss, amid an international money laundering investigation.

This included the US$3.5 billion diversion of 1MDB's funds intended for IPIC's subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS to a British Virgin Islands company bearing a similar name but unrelated to IPIC - Aabar Investments PJS Limited.

‘Defaulted on coupon payments’

Furthermore, 1MDB defaulted on coupon payments on two bonds totalling US$3.5 billion which were guaranteed by IPIC, forcing the Abu Dhabi fund to pick up the tab instead.

It culminated with IPIC taking Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance Incorporated and 1MDB to the London Court of International Arbitration in June, seeking US$6.5 billion in claims.

While the bailout deal with IPIC was disintegrating, 1MDB was selling off its assets to China to cope with its massive debts which totalled almost US$13 billion at its peak.

In December last year, 1MDB sold a 60 percent stake in Bandar Malaysia to a consortium comprising Johor-based Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and Beijing-owned China Railway Engineering Corporation for RM7.42 billion.
A month before that, 1MDB sold its energy assets holding company Edra Global Energy to China General Nuclear Power Corp for RM9.38 billion.
Putrajaya has increasingly pivoted to China following the US Department of Justice investigation into 1MDB as the misappropriated funds were allegedly laundered through the US financial system.

Najib, in a commentary piece in China Daily during his visit to China in November criticised “former colonial powers”, telling them not to lecture other countries.

In an immediate reaction, Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani told Malaysiakini that he is unaware if China is being approached over the matter.
While 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy asked that his statement to Financial Times, declining to comment further be referred to.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

See wants probe on timber licences

Rep believes lack of effective measures has led to state losing timber resources, revenues
See (right) gesturing during the press conference. He is accompanied by (from left) PKR women national vice president Voon Shiak Ni and his personal assistant Jeffery Mok.
See (right) gesturing during the press conference. He is accompanied by (from left) PKR women national vice president Voon Shiak Ni and his personal assistant Jeffery Mok.

KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem has been urged to call for an independent inquiry to inquire and verify on the standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance of the 251 Occupational Ticket (OT) licences and Letter of Authority (LA) which were issued since he assumed the office of the Chief Minister and Resource Planning and Environment Minister.

In making the call, Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How said the dearth of a mechanism to check the abuse of authority and power to issue timber licences coupled with the failure to take action against those who had flouted the laws and breached their fiduciary duties as civil servants and community leaders were causing the state to lose its valuable timber resources and revenues.

“It appears that some senior officers in the ministry have been issuing timber licences (in OTs and LAs) without the knowledge of the ministers, in defiance of the ministerial directives or evading and sidestepping the directives,” See told a press conference here yesterday.

See, who is also state PKR vice chairman, was commenting on the admission by Resource Planning and Environment Ministry permanent secretary Datu Sudarsono Osman during a press conference on Monday that there were still weaknesses in the present SOP of the state Forest Department in issuing short-term tree felling licences such as OT and LA, agreeing that the SOP could be further improved to prevent abuses.

The Monday press conference held by Sudarsono and state Forest Department director Sapuan Ahmad was to clarify on The Borneo Post’s front page story entitled ‘Directive on timber licences flouted?’ on Sunday.

The report highlighted the recent protest against the issuance of a licence for a company to clear a piece of Native Customary Rights (NCR) land in Ulu Ngemah and questioned serious loopholes in the system that posed as a mockery to the chief minister’s declaration in 2014 that no more timber licences would be issued.

The protesters claimed that as owners of the land, they were not consulted in the exercise to obtain consent for its clearing.

See said: “They talked about SOP that is there but I don’t think that they are following the SOP. It is very obvious they didn’t follow the SOP. The only thing that was right about what they said about SOP was that it’s not good enough. It is definitely not good enough because the SOP doesn’t even have anything to say about after the licences were issued.

“So if it is illegal logging, the chief minister says the biggest problem with the smaller OT licences is they get OT licences and then they log somewhere else, but the SOP doesn’t contain anything to say about what they do after the OT licences have been issued over the area.”

See said Sudarsono and Sapuan had avoided answering the allegation on the flouting of the chief minister’s directive to stop the issuance of small licences as it is found that operators with these licences had tended to abuse them for illegal logging outside their areas.

“Last February, the chief minister revealed that the state government had cancelled or stopped renewing 67 OTs and claimed that the amount was more than half of the number of OTs in the state.

“(However), figures from the ministry have shown that 100 OT licences were issued in 2015 and 42 more up to Dec 5 this year. If the 2014 OT licences had been reduced to 42 by February 2015, another 142 new OT licences have been issued and there is an increase of three-fold, and there are now possibly 184 valid OT licences issued by the Forest Department in the state. Quite clearly, the situation has now worsened!”

See said the date of the Gazette Notification (SWK L.N. 197) was published on June 30 this year.

“The Native Communal (Agriculture) Reserve Declaration Order of 2016 was to come into force on Nov 22, 2013. This is the first time I saw a Native Communal (Agriculture) Reserve Declaration that is done now and say it was enforced three years ago.

“I wonder when was the OT Licence over the areas actually issued, and how many OT licences have been issued over the said Lot 1 Block 8 Spali Land District which is 8,605 hectares, not just 4,800 hectares.

“Did they issue a series of OTs over this area and were these done before the Gazette Notification because the Gazette Notification was published June this year and then they said the declaration was enforced in 2013?”

See wanted the state government to show its political will in safeguarding the state’s depleting timber resources and environment, conserving their yields for the future wellbeing of Sarawak.

“I hope the chief minister would immediately order for a committee of inquiry to look into all the things that had been clarified by them, which obviously is not the real picture of what it is now.

“The other biggest problem is nobody is actually being penalised if there is any breach of SOP or if they have done anything wrong regardless of whether they are senior officers like the permanent secretary, director of forest, or less senior forest officers, district officer or even community leaders. If they have done anything wrong in procuring this kind of OT licences, nothing was ever done to penalise these people.”

~ Borneo Post 

Sri Ram says JC appointments may affect quality of justice

 | December 7, 2016

Judicial independence may be questioned if appointed Judicial Commissioners are seen favouring the establishment to win confirmation, says retired judge Gopal Sri Ram.
PETALING JAYA: Another retired judge has come out in support of the suggestion that the appointment of Judicial Commissioners (JCs) be stopped as its original objective is no longer followed.

Gopal Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge, said many had forgotten that JCs were appointed to dispose of a huge list of cases back in the 1970s.

“So, in 1976 the Federal Constitution was amended, vesting power in the then Lord President to appoint JCs to clear the backlog,” he told FMT.

Sri Ram said this in response to the support of his former colleague Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus for a proposal last week by former de facto law minister Rais Yatim that judges’ retirement age be extended but the appointment of JCs be abolished.

Hishamudin, a former Court of Appeal judge, said JCs did not enjoy security of tenure and therefore might not be perceived as being fully independent.

Sri Ram said the system was stopped but the appointment of JCs on a trial basis was recommenced in the early 90s. However, these judges were no longer arbiters appointed merely to clear the backlog.

“They are in fact judges ‘on trial’. This is not a good thing because the confirmation process is held either as a carrot or a stick to see how the individual performs,” he said.

Sri Ram, a lawyer who was the first to be elevated straight to the Court of Appeal in 1994, said this might have the effect of forcing an individual to produce sub-standard work at a quickened pace just to show results.

He said he recalled one JC who had kept striking out cases for the flimsiest of reasons and then showed all these as disposals.

On the other hand, he said there might be a JC who worked hard to dispose only a handful of cases but produced well argued judgments.

“He/she will be punished because on the face of his record, the JC will be seen to have disposed of only a few cases. This is grossly unfair,” he added.

He said in the past there were judges who were fiercely independent and should have found their way into the Federal Court by leaps and bounds but they all retired in the Court of Appeal because of extended terms in the High Court, first as JCs and then as judges.

“There are some who hold the view that these people suffered because they did precisely what is expected of a judge,” he added.

On the other hand, he said, there were some cases of speedy transformation from JC’s to judges, and even speedier promotions because there appeared to be a noticeable leaning in favour of those in government.

“This is not good for the judiciary because it may create the wrong impression that you will move on speedily if you decide in favour of the executive or its members,” he added.

Sri Ram also cautioned that the appointment of JCs was liable to be misused by making the judiciary the dumping ground for members of the Judicial and Legal Service who could not perform.

“As a result, we sometimes see JCs who do not know the difference between a writ and a rut. Some of them are even confirmed on sympathetic grounds, thereby placing the justice system at risk,” he said.

He said the legal fraternity then would end up with judgments that make no sense and in violation of settled principles of law.

“The quality of the judgments from the courts will fall. In some cases this has already happened,” he added.

~ Free Malaysia Today

Why probe me, why not probe FBI, Clare asks Zahid

Published     Updated

Instead of setting up a task force to investigate Sarawak Report, the whistleblower website's editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown has challenged Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi to probe the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) instead.

This was because the FBI was investigating the very same thing she had been reporting on.

"I find it very strange that the deputy prime minister and the Umno party wished to somehow vilify and attack me... for revealing something that has now been corroborated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies the world over.

"So why doesn't Mr (Zahid) Hamidi decide to have a special task force to take on the FBI, why doesn't he criticise the banks who have admitted that there are malfeasance that took place with respect to 1MDB money?

"Why not just take on the force of law and order in other countries, who have identified the crime known as 1MDB," asked Rewcastle-Brown.

She also challenged Zahid to interview her.

"Please do come and interview me. I would be very happy to give you my full mindful about why I am doing what I am doing," she said.

Invited as speaker at anti-graft conference

Rewcastle-Brown said this in a video recording made at the sidelines of the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) which is taking place in Panama City.

She was among three speakers at the IACC session titled "Investigations on Money Laundering" last Friday, where she spoke on 1MDB.

On Saturday, Zahid told the Umno general assembly that a special task force had been set up to probe local organisations, including the Malaysia-focused but London-based whistleblower website.
Zahid claimed that the organisations have allegedly received foreign funding and is under the sway of foreign powers who want to see the present BN-led Malaysian government fall through non-democratic means.
Overseas, 1MDB-linked banks and officials are being investigated by several foreign jurisdictions over alleged complicity in money laundering and embezzlement involving the state fund, which Sarawak Report frequently reported on.

However, Malaysian authorities have dismissed problems with 1MDB as being only consigned to management weaknesses and denied reports of monies being laundered out of the company, accusing the website of trying to destabilise Malaysia and its economy with such news.

Rewcastle-Brown has denied being complicit in any conspiracy to fabricate news to attack the Malaysian government.

Jho Low's family moves to protect assets in 1MDB probe

Published     Updated
Relatives of businessman Low Taek Jho are seeking fresh court action in a bid to prevent the US government from seizing assets as part of an investigation into the scandal-tainted 1MDB fund, according to a US court filing.

According to Reuters, four of Low's relatives are planning to file court actions in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands this week to have real estate and other assets transferred to a new trustee, according to a motion on Monday in a federal court in Los Angeles.

The motion seeks to push back a hearing, giving the relatives time to take their case to courts in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands, which the government had argued were the proper venues for their requests. The government is opposed to delaying the hearing from Dec 12 to Jan 23, the filing says.

The businessman, commonly referred to as Jho Low, is among the people named in civil lawsuits filed earlier this year by the US Department of Justice, which alleged that more than US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund.

According to Reuters, the lawsuits seek to seize US$1 billion in assets allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB and diverted into luxury real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London, valuable paintings, and a private jet.

This is after the US government opposed a previous attempt to replace the family's current trustee, which they say is unable to file a claim to transfer control of the assets, the newswire reported.

In addition to Low, the Department of Justice has also named Riza Aziz in its lawsuits.
Aziz is Najib's stepson and founder of Red Granite Pictures, which produced the 2013 Hollywood blockbuster 'The Wolf of Wall Street'.

According to Bloomberg, the four relatives of Low include his father and brother.

The US will oppose the Low family’s request to delay a Dec 12 hearing over whether they can intervene in the forfeiture case, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for US attorney Eileen Decker in Los Angeles.

Hakkasan CEO also fighting case

Among others, the Justice Department claim that 1MDB funds were used to acquire a US$51 million New York penthouse condominium and a US$31 million Beverly Hills mansion bought in 2014 by Khadem al Qubaisi.

Khadem is the the former managing director of Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) and former chairperspm of restaurant and nightclub operator Hakkasan Group.
According to Bloomberg, Hakkasan CEO Neil Moffitt is also fighting the US claims that a US$15-million chunk of Beverly Hills real estate he owns was also bought by Khadem with misappropriated Malaysian funds.
"Mr Moffitt had no involvement in the property at issue in the federal case other than as owner," his lawyer, Ronald Richards, said.

"I expect the forfeiture complaint to be dismissed as the government was unaware of his purchase at the time they filed the forfeiture complaint.

"He has never been a target or subject of any federal investigation or civil forfeiture action at any time."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why RM2.6b not probed under Section 124C, asks Ambiga

Published     Updated

With the spotlight now on foreign funding, former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan has demanded Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed to provide an explanation on the RM2.6 billion donation issue.

Speaking to Malaysiakini, Ambiga said it was outrageous that NGOs are being hounded over their funding when there is an admission that the RM2.6 billion in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s accounts was used for the last general election.

"If anything, this is the direct interference in our parliamentary democracy, not the work of NGOs fighting for our democratic institutions.

"The deputy minister owes the public an explanation as to why this RM2.6 billion is not being investigated as an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy under Section 124C of the Penal Code since, there is a spotlight on foreign funding," Ambiga added.

Electoral reform group Bersih, the Bar Council and Malaysiakini are being investigated under Section 124C over reports of funding from Open Society Foundations, which is linked to American billionaire George Soros.

On Nov 18, Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah was detained for 10 days under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.
Ambiga also criticised Nur Jazlan for his comments on United Nations representative Maina Kiai (photo), whom the deputy minister accused of interfering in Malaysian affairs.

"This guy, who is not Malaysian and works for a foreign organisation, comes here and tells the people to demonstrate and criticise the government. He is interfering in Malaysia.

"His action gives reason for the police to investigate groups or NGOs that receive foreign funding to check whether there is foreign interference," Nur Jazlan told Malaysiakini.

However, Ambiga described Nur Jazlan’s remarks as "ill advised, if not rude".

"This ‘guy’ he refers to is a respected UN rapporteur on freedom of assembly and given that Malaysia is a member, the comment does not speak well of Malaysia.

"The deputy minister would do well to remember that we were twice members of the human rights council and we are on the UN Security Council now.

"He should also read Malaysia's Aide Memoire seeking membership of the human rights council that reflects Malaysia's commitment to the Federal Constitution and fundamental liberties. This comment is an embarrassment to Malaysia,” Ambiga said.

During a lecture in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Kiai called for a common standard in dealing with foreign funding, questioning among others, the dangers of receiving funds from Saudi princes and whether these donors were influencing the recipients.

The RM2.6 billion in Najib’s accounts was described as a donation from a Saudi royalty to the prime minister with no strings attached, though his critics like Dr Mahathir Mohamad insist that the sum originated from 1MDB.

Najib has denied abusing public funds for personal gain and blamed such allegations on Mahathir and those conspiring to topple him from power.
Attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali also cleared the prime minister, and revealed that of the US$681 million received, US$620 was "returned" to the donor.
In its suit on the alleged abuse of 1MDB funds, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed US$731 million flowed into the accounts of an individual it named as "Malaysian Official 1" or MO1.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan confirmed that MO1 is Najib, but claimed that since the documents did not name the prime minister, he was not part of the investigation.

The DOJ in its lawsuit named four individuals, including Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz and Malaysian-born businessman Jho Low, who is said to be a close to the prime minister’s family.

Umno, PAS and the shape of things to come

S Thayaparan     Published     Updated

“But he that sows lies in the end shall not lack of a harvest, and soon he may rest from toil indeed, while others reap and sow in his stead.”
- JRR Tolkien, The Silmarillion

Mark my words, the next general election, the election that the grand Umno Poohbah likes to keep us guessing on, will be the last Great War for Malaysia.

Moreover, if anyone thinks I am being controversial or provocative in my use of the term “war” than you can take your sensitivities and migrate because this is exactly what Umno thinks of elections in this country. This is not a functional democracy and Umno considers anyone who does not vote BN as enemies of the Umno state.

I say “for Malaysia” because this is exactly what is at stake. What kind of country do you want to live in? A country ruled by kleptocrats and religious zealots or a flawed democracy with incremental, maybe even infinitesimal, progress?

Does that sound overdramatic? Hyperbolic? The consequences of losing this election will not be felt immediately. It will slowly creep up on an apathetic citizenry. As Malaysian history demonstrates, the Malay and non-Malay community that were fairly integrated before will soon find themselves separated, not by the banality of culture but rather the heavy boot of religious and racial superiority, which post-1969 has been the agenda of choice for Umno potentates, the most cunning of which leads the opposition today.

However, it could be worse. Depending on how “badly” Umno wins, the Umno high command may decide that they cannot afford to play election poker any more, even more so when they have stacked the deck in their favour. While it is possible that Umno may turn on itself, the current grip that the grand poohbah has on Umno, with the cash is king ethos, the new National Security Council (NSC) laws and the servile security apparatus, all point to darker designs.

This Umno hate fest was historic for a couple of reasons. First Umno embraced PAS in its bosom, via Hadi Awang’s Hudud Bill, but more importantly, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who for so long demonised the DAP, entered the lion’s den and apparently came out with the impression that he was surrounded by multi-racial Malaysian lambs.
If PKR still thinks that it is simpatico with PAS and if Bersatu still thinks that PAS is an oppositional voice, the words of PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan (photo) should dispel this delusion. If the sight of the grand Umno poohbah and Hadi Awang joining hands at the Rohingya shindig, not to mention the exclusion of the Muslims from PKR, DAP, Amanah and Bersatu, does not shake these Muslim oppositional power brokers out of their stupor, nothing will.

Here is a hint. The PAS information chief said a few things that Muslim opposition MPs should take note of.

(1) He said PAS "cooperates with any party for the sake of Islam and Muslims".
Except by not inviting Muslim representatives for the Umno Rohingya shindig, PAS is overtly implying that it would not work with certain Muslim political parties. It also further demonstrates the fact that PAS thinks that Umno’s definition of Islam trumps all others, but more importantly, PAS is the gatekeeper when it comes to Umno and Islam in this country.

(2) "PAS and Umno need to combine so that Malaysia's politics remains healthy with checks and balances."
This means that PAS will rubber stamp anything Umno says or does because on matters like institutional corruption, like the 1MDB scandal, PAS supremo Hadi Awang has claimed that the case is closed and the Umno president is “only human”.

(3) "However it does not mean PAS, Umno and others must continue to fight on all matters to the detriment of the Muslim community."
 Of course Hadi does not specify who those “others” are because Umno has declared that the DAP is detrimental to the Malay community, hence they should be destroyed as with any who support them. This of course means every Muslim politician aligned with the DAP.

A deeper game going on?

Of course, some could make the argument that there is a deeper game going on here. PKR insiders tell me that PAS MPs in Selangor are “different” from their counterparts in the rural heartlands and that there may be a shift in allegiance when the time is right. Which is fair enough, but history has shown that the opposition is incapable of carrying out any of their cunning plans, while Umno has demonstrated over the decades that it can play PAS like a Stradivarius violin.

I can say that only time will tell, but unfortunately we are running out of time.

I for one was happy to see Mahathir as a de facto opposition leader at the 50th DAP national convention because the opposition desperately needs a war general because they have proven inept at engineering the fall of Umno by themselves.

Reading what Mahathir said about his new experience at the DAP powwow, I am even more convinced of what I wrote when I interviewed him: “Anyone speaking to the former prime minister realises that here is a man who finds currency in realpolitik and seeks consensus merely as a means to an end.

One gets the impression that he paints in broad strokes not because he doesn’t get the details but rather because the former allows him more control of the narrative and he understands that people more often agree on the bigger picture, but get bogged down in the details. It is a useful political and rhetorical tactic that appeals to the pragmatic nature of the polity that has sustained him all through his political career.”

While Mahathir is left with handling the public relations of this new alliance, his major domo Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president Muhyiddin Yassin was doing the firefighting that erupted during the Umno hate fest demonising the DAP.

Of course, this means assuring the Malay community that everything is all right. That the Chinese are not going to take over Tanah Melayu and there will always be a Malay prime minster anointed by Malay powerbrokers, the real Umno instead of Najib’s party where Malay politicians have to bend the knee to the Cash is King.

Muhyiddin said that Umno was terrified of how strong the Malays have become in the opposition and this may be true but this in itself is wrong. The sad funny reality is that the only people who have shown their commitment to dethroning Najib are the Malay architects of this mess and the DAP, which enjoys the support of the majority of their community.

In other words, Malays politicians may have become strong in the opposition, but it is meaningless without the support of the Malay community. Demonstrating that there are no strings attached is only part of the equation: you have to demonstrate that you can stand on your own two feet.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Monday, December 5, 2016



The DPM was not successful in convincing Sabah MPs to support Hadi’s Bill but managed to talk to the Sarawak CM into retracting his opposition to the Bill and putting his decision ‘on hold’. It appears that to UMNO, the only way to push Sarawak BN over the edge is to adopt the Bill as their own, for Sarawak BN have always shown themselves to be compliant followers of UMNO/BN. UMNO will definitely play the ‘duty/guilt’ mind games with the Muslim BN leaders to support the Bill when it emerges again in its new form.

Sarawakians, who had been happily encouraged by the CM’s earlier bravado in supporting and defending our rights, especially before and immediately after the Sarawak elections, are fast becoming disillusioned by his steady retreat in the wake of the PM and DPM’s manipulative visits.

Lest anyone thinks UMNO is in it because of the obligation of religious ‘duty’, let us be clear about it – UMNO is desperate to latch on to PAS grassroots votes due to the eroding support from its votebank. Increasingly, Malays have turned away from UMNO for various reasons – revelations of massive corruption and 1MBD linked with the PM, the sacking of Muhydin Yassin and Shafie Apdal, the formation of Bersatu, etc. UMNO is turning to PAS, their onetime enemy for votes. It is a marriage of convenience for Hadi and Najib.

Najib/Hadi will try to sell their Bill as a non-Hudud product, and give their absolute and all-out assurance that it has nothing to do with Hudud and will not affect non-Muslims. We know from bitter experience that assurances from the PM and his minions are not worth anything. Recall the ‘Allah’ issue, the seizure of the bibles and CDs, the hardship faced by converts who want to leave Islam, etc.

In Sarawak, we must focus on our rights under MA63, the Malaysia Act, the pre-formation documents and the Federal Constitution. The Malaysia we agreed to form is a secular Malaysia. Our forefathers had insisted on it, Tunku Abdul Rahman had said it, and the courts have ruled on it. Any element of Hudud that is introduced into law will be a violation of this agreement, not to mention a contravention of the guarantee of equality under the Federal Constitution.

In this matter, ALL MPs must vote as Sarawakians first, and political affiliates second. I hope that all MPs will make sure they are at Parliament for the debate and voting, and resist the convenient ‘solution’ of absenting themselves so they do not have to make their stand known. Sarawakian MPs owe it to the people of Sarawak to act in their interests. In this matter, political allegiance and expediency must have no bearing on their votes.

As we have been reminded recently, all proceedings in Parliament are recorded in the Hansard for posterity. I hope that none of our MPs will have cause for regret if they are called to account for their actions in later years. This is an opportunity to create a legacy for our future generations. It is time to stand up and be counted as an equal partner with equal say in the future of Sarawak and Malaysia.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak/ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan

Sly Najib plays a winning trump card with 'hudud' move

Kee Thuan Chye     Published     Updated

Whad'ya know? The government is going to take up the bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 originally proposed by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, and table it as its own. Who would have thought a private member's bill - and one initiated by an opposition MP - would come this far?

We heard the news first from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak himself when he chose to declare it at the annual Umno general assembly last Thursday. It was obviously the most apt occasion for him to make this sudden declaration, because apart from the usual racial and religious ra-ra-ra, the assembly this time focused much on getting the party ready for the next general election (GE14) and consolidating its growing alliance with PAS.

To be sure, Najib's announcement was astonishing, but not really surprising. We could see it coming, couldn't we? Especially when MCA president Liow Tiong Lai, who had strongly opposed the bill when it was first tabled last May, made a questionable turnaround nearly two weeks ago by saying that if the government tabled a similar bill, "I will vote for it".

Did he have foreknowledge of Najib's move?

MIC president S Subramaniam, who originally said his party opposed Hadi's bill because its passing would pave the way for hudud, now welcomes Najib's assurance that the current legal system would not be affected and says the MIC will set up a legal committee to study the bill and its implications.

This current amenable stance is such a change from the one the BN component party leaders took in May, when Subramaniam, Liow, Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong and MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong even threatened to quit their cabinet posts if the bill should get passed.

One suspects that when the government actually takes over the tabling of the bill, these four will likely bow obediently to the whip and remain in the cabinet.

Sly timing

But what about BN component parties in Sabah and Sarawak?

In May, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah president Joseph Kurup and Parti Bersatu Sabah president Joseph Pairin Kitingan expressed their opposition to the bill, but made no drastic threats.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu president and Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem instructed all the 25 MPs from Sarawak BN to vote against Hadi's bill, but after Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi pledged that a select committee comprising Muslim and non-Muslim MPs from all political parties would be set up to discuss the matter, Adenan seemed pacified. He said he was also reassured that the bill had nothing to do with hudud.

Najib must have been heartened by all this. It gives him the leeway to do PAS the big favour that will draw it closer to BN-Umno. A closer relationship between the two parties could be crucial in case BN doesn't do so well in GE14.

Furthermore, he now has the religion card to play to his advantage. The government will be seen to be championing the Muslim cause, which is key among the Muslim-majority electorate and something difficult for any party to challenge. It is a sly move he has made.

The timing of the reading of the bill for next March is also sly - it could be taking place just before GE14 if Najib calls early elections. This would create pressure on the opposition parties.

Originally, Nov 24 was the scheduled date for reading and debate, but Hadi made some amendments to the bill and then requested that the reading be postponed to the next Parliament sitting in March. The speaker of the House complied. Opposition MPs who had wanted a debate on the bill that day were frustrated.

Lose lose for opposition

Come March, they may be caught in a quandary that could hamper their prospects at the polls.

BN would have the moral high ground for tabling the bill, and Muslim MPs of the opposition would have to support it or risk getting rejected at GE14 by Muslim voters, especially those from the rural hinterland. The opposition would thus be playing into Najib's hands, which will not make them look good.

At the same time, supporting the bill would probably lose them support from non-Muslim voters who equate it with hudud, so it could work out to be a no-win situation for the opposition.

If that works out, Najib would have cleverly used religion to save himself. This issue might well overwhelm the issues of 1MDB, SRC International Sdn Bhd and RM2.6 billion that the opposition would surely invoke at the hustings to try and bring him down.

After all, religion appeals more easily to the man-in-the-street and the man-in-the-kampung than the complicated money flows of 1MDB and SRC.

Meanwhile, Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) payments would have been rolling out to further assure the lower-income electorate that the ruling BN is looking after them. So, with heavenly and earthly matters being well taken care of, why should it bother the voters if Najib is said to be truly corrupt?

BN components complicit

It looks like Najib has pulled off a coup, with BN non-Muslim component parties seemingly compliant with his move by not raising a squeak of protest. What's more, if his courtship of PAS turns serious, their merged forces will be formidable.

Even if MCA, MIC and Gerakan fall by the wayside at GE14, it wouldn't matter much. BN will still nick the elections with PAS. And seeing this, Sarawak will want to remain with the winning side.
It's a bleak scenario for the opposition. They will need to find a trump card very soon to out-trump sly Najib. Otherwise, the game of GE14 might virtually be over.

KEE THUAN CHYE is the author of the bestsellers Unbelievably Stupid! and Unbelievably Stupid Too!